Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

  • de  
  • en  
  • es  
  • fr  
Personal tools
Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All

WHO reform: the debate

WHO reform: the debate

A collection of documents on the WHO reform process. More to come...

"The World Health Organization is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends." About WHO

"The world needs a global health guardian, a protector and defender of health, including the right to health." Margaret Chan, September 2011

"The reform should be guided by public interest values and a clear vision of health for all, and its rationale must be based on a solid analysis of the challenges that WHO faces and their root causes. Such analysis has not been made available till now." (DGH core statement)


WHO reform: The project

Introduction to the reform pages of the WHO website:

"The process of reform is Member State-driven and inclusive. The three objectives were defined at the Sixty-fourth World Health Assembly and at the Executive Board’s 129th session.

  • Improved health outcomes, with WHO meeting the expectations of its Member States and partners in addressing agreed global health priorities, focused on the actions and areas where the Organization has a unique function or comparative advantage, and financed in a way that facilitates this focus.
  • Greater coherence in global health, with WHO playing a leading role in enabling the many different actors to play an active and effective role in contributing to the health of all peoples.
  • An Organization that pursues excellence; one that is effective, efficient, responsive, objective, transparent and accountable"

In its reform process WHO therefore refers to three "distinct and interconnected" fields of work:Programmes and priority setting, Governance reform, and Managerial reform.

After the World Health Assembly 2013 with the adoption of the Twelfth WHO General Programm of Work and the Programme Budget 2014–2015, and after EB session in May 2013 and the start of the "financing dialogue" in June 2013, the focus of the further reform process moved to the governance reform. Key issues were the role of WHO in global health governance (highlighted in the Ebola crisis), and WHO's relations with non-state actors.

"The Ebola outbreak has had a significant impact on reform implementation. Certain reform initiatives had to be delayed because resources had to be redeployed. However, the outbreak has also validated the relevance and importance of the different reform initiatives, in particular the WHO leadership priorities. It has further revealed areas for future improvement to ensure the Organization is able to deliver rapidly and effectively in emergency situations. Discussions are at an early stage and are ongoing." (WHO)

At the 68th World Health Assembly, there is a renewed call for WHO reform, now covering and interlinking all these topics.


WHO reform: state of the process

Reform process after the 68th World Health Assembly: Open-ended intergovernmental meeting on the draft Framework of engagement with non-State actors

Reform process at the 68th World Health Assembly
18-26 May 2015

  • A68/4
    WHO reform: overview of reform implementation
  • A68/5
    Framework of engagement with non-State actors
  • A68/R9
    Framework of engagement with non-State actors: Resolution
  • "The Health Assembly welcomed the fact that delegates had reached consensus on many parts of the draft framework of engagement with non-State actors, noting that it wishes to finalize the framework by the next Health Assembly. Delegates requested the Director-General to convene an intergovernmental meeting as soon as possible and to submit the finalized draft for adoption at the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly. They asked the Secretariat to develop a register of non-State actors for next year's Health Assembly. Delegates acknowledged the importance of WHO engaging with non-State actors (nongovernmental organizations, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions) and of ensuring that risks of such engagement are managed robustly at global, regional and country level." (WHO media release)

Reform process at the 136th session of the WHO Executive Board, 
26 January – 3 February 2015

  • EB136_CONF5Rev1-en.pdf
    WHO EB136 decision on engagement with non-state actors
  • EB136/5
    Framework of engagement with non-State actors
  • EB136/INF./2
    Framework of engagement with non-State actors
    Information on regional committee debates
  • EB136/6
    Method of work of the governing bodies
  • EB136/7
    WHO reform: overview of reform implementation


Reform process after the 67th World Health Assembly:
Regional WHO Committees

  • EUR/RC64/23
    Draft Proposed Programme Budget 2016–2017
    (Regional Committee Version)

Reform process at the 67th World Health Assembly and the 135th session of the WHO Executive Board, May 2014

  • A67/4
    WHO reform: Progress report on reform implementation
  • A67/5
    Improved decision-making by the governing bodies
  • A67/6
    Framework of engagement with non-State actors
  • A67/A/CONF./5Rev.1
    Draft decision resulting from a drafting group on the framework of WHO engagement with non-State actors
  • A67/7
    Follow-up to the financing dialogue
  • A67/8
    Follow-up to the financing dialogue. Independent evaluation
  • A67/10
    Financing of administrative and management costs


Reform process at the 134th session of the WHO Executive Board, 
20-25 January 2014

  • EB134/5
    WHO reform: reform implementation plan and report

  • EB134/6 Add.1
    WHO reform: Options for improved decision-making by the governing bodies

  • EB134/7
    Streamlining national reporting and communication with Member States
  • EB134/9
    Financing Dialogue
  • EB134/8
    Framework of engagement with non-State actors
    - with document "Mapping of WHO engagement with non-State actors"
  • EB134/39
    PWC Report: second stage evaluation on WHO reform


Informal consultation on WHO’s engagement with non-state actors,
Meeting in Geneva, 17-18 October 2013

WHO financing dialogue
June and November 2013

Evaluation of WHO reform process

Reform process at the 66th World Health Assembly, 20-28 May 2013,
and the 133rd session of the WHO Executive Board, 29-30 May 2013

"WHO’s priority setting process dominated the reform discussion at the WHA – Member States endorsed the outcome of the February Member State’s meeting on programmes and priority setting while recognizing that special emphasis should be given to determinants of health. A number of reforms across the governance and managerial programmatic streams were endorsed and the Secretariat was asked to move forward including implementation. In other areas such as the financing of WHO Member States asked the Secretariat to revisit the issue at a special session of the Programme, Budget and Administration Committee (PBAC) scheduled for early December." (WHO)

  • WHO reform: High-level implementation plan and report.
    Document A66/4
  • WHO reform: Financing of WHO
    Document A66/48
  • Draft Twelfth WHO General Programm of Work
    Document A66/6 with related resolutionA66/6 Add.1
  • Proposed programme budget 2014–2015
    Document A66/7 with related resolution A66/7 Add.1
  • WHO Governance report. Report by the secretariat
    Document EB133/16 
  • WHO reform, Governance: options for criteria for inclusion, exclusion or deferral of items on the provisional agenda of the Executive Board. Report by the Director-General
    Document EB133/3
  • Administration and management cost study
    Document EBPBAC18/3
  • Documents related to other elements of the WHO reform are not yet available.

Provisional summary records of WHO and EB sessions related to the WHO reform:

Documentation of WHO governing body meetings: 66th WHA, 133nd session of WHO EB and 18th meeting of WHO PBAC


WHO reform debate: civil society contributions and positions


Reform process after the 67th World Health Assembly:
Regional WHO Committees

  • International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN): Comment  on WHO EURO Agenda item 5G, Framework of engagement with non-State actors: report by the Secretariat to the regional Committees    
  • People's Health Movement (PHM): Open Letter to the 67th Session of South-East Asian Regional Committee of WHO, including comments on NSA Framework, Follow-up of the Financing Dialogue, and Strategic Resource Allocation


Reform process at the 67th World Health Assembly and the 135th session of the WHO Executive Board, May 2014. Civil society statements, comments, resources


Reform process at the 134th session of the WHO Executive Board, 
20-25 January 2014.
Civil society statements, comments, resources

Informal consultation on WHO’s engagement with non-state actors,
Meeting in Geneva, 17-18 October 2013

Reform process at the World Health Assembly 2013
Civil society statements, comments, resources



WHO reform and Global Health Governance:
Inputs from a DGH briefing on 7 May 2013


> Your statement missing? send it to us by e-mail (PDF or link)
> Older statements: See our chronology of the WHO reform
> Articles and blogs: see below


WHO reform: Background and chronology

WHO reform: Background and chronology


Civil society networks and campaigns dealing with WHO reform

  • Democratising Global Health Coalition on the WHO Reform (DGH)
    "The Democratising Global Health Coalition on the WHO Reform (DGH) gathers a group of public interest NGOs and individuals committed to the realization of the right to health based on equity and universality, who highly value the constitutional mandate of the WHO for the realization of this right worldwide. We believe the stakes around the WHO are too high for the public health community NOT to be properly informed and come with a united voice, whenever possible, to safeguard the role for public policy and action that the WHO is mandated to serve. The DGH Coalition invites those public-interest organisations and citizens that share the same concerns on the WHO process, and vision for the future of WHO, to sign up to this statement and become members of the DGH coalition. United, we can make a much greater impact." Since its beginning, the MMI Network is an active member, co-organizer and promoter of the DGH Coalition and hosts DGH representatives in its delegation to the meetings of the WHO Governing Bodies.

    > DGH core statement
    > DGH partners (2012):
    > DGH side event at 65th WHA:
    > DGH documents and statements are published on this page

  • WHO Watch
    "WHO is the paramount health authority at the global level and needs to be strengthened and reformed and properly funded to play this role. WHO Watch seeks to generate support for a reformed WHO restored to its proper place in global health governance. WHO Watch aims to support wider knowledge of, and participation in, the various engagements across the broader field of global health governance. We are aiming to change the balance of power framing global decisions which impact on health. WHO Watch is the first phase of broader ambition, the Democratising of Global Health Governance." WHO Watch is a joint project of Medicus Mundi International, People's Health Movement, Third World Network, Medico International and Health Action International.  (MMI provides global hosting. PHM coordinates the watching and maintains the website. MI is a donor as well as partner. TWN and HAI provide technical guidance.) Regional watching depends on a further range of local partners.

    > - topic page on WHO reform


WHO reform: more analysis and comments


  • For more reports and analysis related to Ebola and WHO, please refer to our thematic guide: Ebola voices




  • Teeth for the Tiger. Strengthening the Role of the World Health Organisation in Global Health. AfGH Conference Report, October 2012
  • Future of WHO hangs in the balance
    David Legge, October 2012
  • Can WHO survive?
    Richard Horton, October 2012
  • Will the WHO reform bring money, voice and power behind public health?
    Rangarirai Machemedze, October 2012
  • Who’s funding WHO?
    Andrew Harmer, June 2012
  • (WHO donors) Gates Foundation, US, UK, Canada, Rotary Int., Norway and GAVI: Setting the agenda for global public health?
    Thiru Balasubramaniam, June 2012
  • Global health — an end of term report
    Richard Horton, May 2012
  • Reinventing the World Health Organization
    Thomas Bollyky, May 2012
  • Healthy governance. How the WHO can regain its relevance
    By Devi Sridhar et al., May 2012
  • Who is really helping WHO?
    Andreas Zumach, May 2012
  • Difficult task of setting priorities at the WHO
    Amanda Glassman, May 2012
  • Urgent need for WHO's reform to prioritise core functions
    Mohga Kamal-Yanni and Philippa Saunders, May 2012
  • Global health governance and financing mechanisms
    Samantha Battams and Thiago Luchesi, May 2012
  • The European Union's voice and influence on global health and the reform of the World Health Organisation: the role of diplomacy
    Samantha Battams, Remco van de Pas, Louise van Schaik, May 2012
  • The WHO must reform for its own health
    Tikki Pang and Laurie Garrett, May 2012
  • The Reform of the WHO
    Petronellar Nyagura, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zimbabwe in Geneva, May 2012
  • WHO reform and public interest safeguards: An historical perspective
    Judith Richter in: Social Medicine, April 2012 (also in Spanish)
  • WHO under siege from private sector
    Tom Fawthrop in: Third World Resurgence, January/February 2012
  • WHO Reform debate to continue, February fixed for member-driven priority setting
    K. M. Gopakumar & Sangeeta Shashikant, TWN Info, January 2012
  • The World Health Organisation, its reform and its relevance
    Remco van de Pas, Wemos, Get involved blog, January 2012
  • Overhaul needed on rules on WHO-NGO' relationship
    Sangeeta Shashikant, TNW SUNS, January 2012, quoted from Ip-health
  • WHO Reform: threats and opportunities. A healthier political functioning
    Centre for Global Health Policy and Innovation Blog, January 2012
  • Action to preserve WHO's core functions cannot wait for organisational reform
    Mohga M Kamal-Yanni, Oxfam, in: Lancet, January 2012
  • WHO Reform: Fit for purpose or fit for plucking?
    David Legge, Afro-Nets, January 2012


  • WHO reform at crossroads
    Mihály Kökény, EurActiv, December 2011
  • A healthier political functioning. WHO Reform: threats and opportunities
    Eduardo Missoni in: Bulletin of Medicus Mundi Switzerland, December 2011
  • Global health leadership and the mandate of the WHO
    Iboro Ekpo Nta, Evolutionary content dissertation, November 2011
  • Third World Network: analysis of WHO EB Special Session
    K.M. Gopakumar and Heba Wanis, 2 November 2011 (pdf)
    K. M. Gopakumar and Sangeeta Shashikant, 11 November 2011 (pdf)
  • PHM comment on WHO consolidated reform paper
    For WHO EB Special Session, 1-3 November 2011
  • Comment on WHO Reform Papers
    Third World Network, 16 September 2011
  • Save WHO! Background to current WHO reform initiatives and possible advocacy messages
    David Legge on: Global Health Watch, September 2011
  • WHO reform: members only (?)
    Comment by Thomas Schwarz, August 2011
    MMI ePlatform

  • “Irrelevant” WHO outpaced by younger rivals
    Nigel Hawkes in BMJ, August 2011 (extract only, no free access to the full text)
  • WHO: Vague and inadequate reform plans criticised, nothing on financing
    Sangeeta Shashikant on: TWN Info Service, July 2011
  • WHO’s reform – a key challenge for the Member States
    Ilona Kickbusch in: Health Diplomacy Monitor, June 2011, p. 3 (pdf)
  • WHO: Members' pressure leads to more inclusive reform process
    K. M. Gopakumar and S. Shashikant on: TWN Info Service, June 2011
  • Leveraging the World Health Organization’s Core Strenghts
    Margaret Reeves, Suzanne Brundage, CSIS report, May 2011
  • Revamp for WHO
    Declan Butler in: Nature, May 2011
  • The future of financing for WHO
    Medicus Mundi International Network: statement at WHA, May 2011
    MMI ePlatform
  • The future of financing for WHO
    PHM statement at WHA, May 2011
  • Conflicts of Interest and the Future of Financing for WHO
    Health Action International (HAI) during WHA, May 2011
  • STOP the World Health Forum
    The IBFAN position during WHA, May 2011
  • The future of financing for WHO
    World Health Organization: reforms for a healthy future. Report by WHO DG to World Health Assembly (WHA document A64/4) and development plan (document
    A64_ID5-en), May 2011
  • Time to untie the knots: the WHO reform and the need of democratizing global health. "Delhi Statement", May 2011
  • How to set priorities for WHO
    Gaudenz Silberschmidt, Graduate Institute Global Health Programme Working Paper. May 2011
  • WHO reform: construction work ahead!
    Comment by Thomas Schwarz, May 2011
    MMI ePlatform
  • Reforming the World Health Organization
    Devi Sridhar and Lawrence O. Gostin in: JAMA (2011)
  • The WHO and Global Health Governance
    Ad hoc advisory meeting, Geneva, 11 March 2011. A report and analysis for MMI and PHM can be ordered at the MMI secretariat
    WHO summary report


  • Is the WHO becoming irrelevant?
    Why the world's premier public health organization must change or die. JC Chow in: FP (2010)
  • A stronger voice of civil society at the World Health Assembly?
    Comment by Thomas Schwarz, June 2010
    MMI ePlatform

  • Making WHO Work Better: An Advocacy Agenda for Civil Society
    A discussion document produced by the Global Health Watch (2006)


This section of the guide is updated monthly
Source: MMI updates on Twitter

See also our thematic guide "Global Health Governance"
- the issues are closely related

Short URL of this page:


Document Actions